I recently met a friend for dinner, and he told a tale of another friend’s recent run-in and frustration with a San Antonio real estate agent. This wasn’t one of the horror stories of fraud, ineptitude, or even misinformation, yet still it prompted this individual to proclaim “Down with realty!” and “Realtors are B.S.”
Not usually one to jump on the company line/propaganda bandwagon, even that of our dear NAR and TAR leaders (despite their direct relation to my business and livelihood), I began to think of all of the ways that Realtor do matter.
But what came up with was not that Realtor matter and are a necessary evil, but that real estate agents, when properly trained, sincerely motivated, and (dare I say) skilled at their professions do serve an extremely valuable role in what is an extremely important life decision.
MLS Access and the Internet
Let’s start with the numbers. Back in the olden days, real estate offices had physical printouts of available homes in a large binder in their central office. In order to find a house for a client, you manually flipped through that book and hand-picked possible options (with taped on picture prints no less). In order to find comparable sales, you had to go to another book and hope you could find what you were looking for. Or to the tax rolls and records office. All of this was highly specialized information to which access was very limited. But now, we’ve moved into the age of technology and information sharing. Not only do we quickly scroll through listings on our computers or phones, with even more fields and criteria than ever, but we openly share this information with the world. Sites like Realtor.com and Zillow have what might have been considered unprecedented access to what was our “secret information.”
Should this matter? Isn’t an informed public good? Does it make us obsolete if clients can get the same information that we’ve had for years? No. And here’s why: just because the data is available does not mean that the reader knows how to use it.
Knowledge and Negotiations
Enter the Realtor. A skilled real estate agent knows how to take all of that data and put it together into a useful, reasonable fashion that matters. Knowing property trends, buyer wants, neighborhood reputations, economic indicators, property histories, local laws, and more give agents keen insight into the real estate market in ways that simple sales figures do not. Zillow can tell you when that home one street over sold and for what price (sometimes accurately), but it can’t tell you that there was a huge power grid behind the property and that the owners had to move because of personal tragedy that motivated them to “give away the farm.” Or worse yet, that the school boundaries had recently changed or that the builder of that particular house had numerous recent issues with water leakage and mold. With an agent on your side, you’re alerted to trends, pitfalls, and other key information you might not even know to think or ask about.
But even more than just what to do with the numbers, the best agents are skilled negotiators and they know real estate contracts inside and out. How do you know what pitfalls to watch out for if you don’t even know what a document says? Would any first time home buyer ever think about a survey encroachment or have the slightest clue as to how to cure one? Why consider seller financing or lease purchase? Or what happens if a buyer loses a job mid transaction?
Realtors should be more than just glorified rolodexes or jazzed up data distributors. They should know the market, know how to read trends, help you anticipate and avoid problems, stay informed about the issues that could pose problems in your major life decision, and actually guide you through a complex process. Those who decided to hire a realtor for their home buying or selling journey may need to conduct a background check for employment on their potential realtors.
Do you need to be involved? Absolutely…and your voice should be heard. Will every agent out there give you the services and experiences I’ve outlined above? No. But the good ones will. The true experts who are able to see the bigger picture, to look past petty details and pay attention to the significant ones. Those who have the resources, knowledge, and experience to keep you on track and help put things together should they start to fall apart. No real estate transaction can be perfect, but a lot of them can be pretty darn great. And my bet is that the majority of those have a skilled agent or two helping things along.
image courtesy of ♪ Sleeping Sun ♪